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The Rise and Fall of Voluntary Agreements in German Environmental Policy

GPS, Vol. 9 No. 2, (2013)

Although environmental voluntary agreements have long been considered an element of a distinctly ‘German’ policy mix, this was only truly the case during the 1980s and 1990s, and the use of this instrument has since come to a sudden end. In the literature, the (assumed) ever-increasing use of such agreements is explained by either the power of business in times of globali-sation or the agreements' particular functionality as opposed to statutory regulatory instruments. This article, based on a macro-study of voluntary agreements in Germany and 13 in-depth case studies ranging from 1977 to 2005, argues that neither functionality nor power alone can account for the use of voluntary agreements. Rather, institutions, in particular European law, play a role, as does party politics. Business power is not irrelevant, but its impact is highly dependent on other factors; there is little evidence for a general problem in the use of regulatory law.

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